The banks of Lead Creek are lichen green, rocky
under the concrete Division Street bridge. The laundromat
is closed. It’s the day after the county rodeo, 1966:
the day after the football toss, the three-legged race,
the greased pig scramble (my cousin actually caught one
once, and it lived collared and staked in their front yard
until one day it disappeared, like the boys who go
to Vietnam). A train, a hundred and seven cars long,
rolls slowly through town, wheels squealing like a binding saw.
The turn of the century will never come here. JFK is here.
He sits at the soda fountain in the five-and-dime, sipping
coffee with Thomas Jefferson. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not here.
There are no black people here. The people here look more
like the cast of The Milagro Beanfield War, rough and simple
and quiet, like the smelter smoke, its metallic ting ringing in your mouth
like an alarm clock. You wake to it most mornings. But now it’s
noon and the sky is lichen green, the hills dusty with only
the white-painted tires in the shape of a big K to break the steep slope.
Osbourne, the next town up the valley, has a big O.
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